So, we have some time to catch up on here. I’m sitting in my room above the pub about ready to get ready for the day after a heavy night of drinking. My heads a bit swimming but for the most part things are well.
Right, let’s get up to date here.
The flight over to London was great. Delta employs the use of a 767-400ER instead of the DC-9 which I would have taken in 2004 for my first flight over. I believe that everyone has retired their DC-9s from service, and if memory serves NWA did their last DC-9 flight in 2007. The ride was smooth, almost 0 bumps for turbulence and not a single illumination of the fasten seatbealts light.
The problem with that flight lay solely in the seat configuration. Everything is the same as a regional flight except that you have ½” extra seat width. While I’m grateful for that, my knees and calves were not too happy. I had folded my right leg across my backpack which protruded expertly from the seat in front of me and tucked my foot behind my left ankle as I made a very poor attempt to fall asleep.
That’s when it struck. Nature’s Charlie Horse.
I panicked, trying desperately to get my right leg out onto the aisle to stretch it out and get rid of this horrible muscle-contracting deathlock happening all the way up my leg. As I pulled my foot around it caught the backstrap on my backpack and the entanglement only increased my silent frustration. I was panicked and mouthing obscenities and expletives as I desperately tried to free my leg. By this point the flight attendants were beginning to collect and point out my abnormal motion. I finally freed my leg before the threat of an air marshal concerned over my backpack shenanigans came into play.
At last, I was free. I made sure to rub my leg so everyone knew I was in fact not a terrorist, but just a guy enjoying being stuck in a steerage-class seat for far too long.
Luckily my last post didn’t end up being true, regarding my seatmate. I sat next to a girl named Ashley who is an electrical engineering student doing some cool intern work with the military. She was nerdy and fun to talk too and made the flight go a lot quicker. The last time I flew across the pond I was seated next to a straight-forward businessman who wasn’t keen for talking or for any kind of entertainment.
I landed at London-Heathrow Airport right on schedule, flew through the customs line, sorted my luggage and headed for the express train to Paddington Station. When we landed and all the way through the airport I was nervously checking my mobile phone for data service. The dreaded GSM red SOS indicator meant that I was ‘shit out of luck’ as it were.
Normally I wouldn’t panic too much not having a phone on me, but in a strange country with no communication and no data I was starting to worry. I had planned on having access on my phone to get me information on how to get from point A to point B easily. Without that I fell prey to Jim’s instructions which were a little vague.
After waiting in line forever to get a tube ticket, my card wouldn’t work in the machine. So I waited in yet another massive queue to get my London Underground travel card, then down the Bakerloo line to Waterloo station, crossed over to the Jubilee Line and I had made it to my destination. Jim graciously came over to the train station and walked me back to my temporary home. I sorted out the issue with my mobile with Verizon and was happy to be loaded with Internet access once again. Then it was time to catch a quick nap, take a shower and head out to The Lyceum.
The Lyceum is a pub on strand in London. There are quite a few theaters and such as you walk down strand and you can tell it is loaded with culture. I’ll probably have more to report about that once I actually get out and start wandering again, but for now let’s just say The Lyceum is in a great spot.
The pub is owned by Samuel Smith’s brewery and features a great cross section of beers made by their owner. I’m a bitter fan myself, so I was happy to have my first pint in London be just that. I had dragged my 43.25 lb suitcase all over London to get it to the bar and ended up tearing a damn wheel off the thing. As it sat in the corner, punished, it was then forced to watch me proceed to start drinking with all the boys and gals.
The Lyceum has quite a few regulars, as any good pub does. I got to meet quite a few faces and get to know quite a few stories. Jill and Pete live above the bar and take care of the operations. Jill and Pete are quite capable drinkers who bring a real family presence to the pub. At times during the evening you would see the business side of the two come out as they were explaining to their younger employees what they needed to do in order to keep their employ.
When I met Jill she was perched on what I’m coming to find is her area at the turn of the bar near the back. It was crowded at that moment and she turned to me to ask how I knew Jim. I mentioned that his best mate married my sister.
Jill stares at me, not quite knowing what to say, with a slight look of panic.
After a moment of awkwardness she says, “He *buried* your sister??”
No, no, no! Married I said with a laugh, paused for a moment and said, well really it’s all the same now isn’t it? Awkwardness avoided and the night began to proceed smashingly.
There was also Pat. He is an older gentleman with quite a diverse and interesting history. Military experience, business owner, and professional drinker. Pat was telling me about his son who had decided to become, (Pat looks left, right, covers his mouth as if to tell me a secret), “a banker.” Pat then proceeds to shake his head. Intrigued, I asked if bankers were treated such as lawyers in the UK. The answer seemed to be a resounding yes from most of the group.
What ensued was a lengthy debate about politics. The US has an obvious influence on the world and our economy and struggles impact everyone. So when we bail out major banks and screw with banking as a whole we have an effect on banking in foreign nations. Pat felt that most bankers were quick to keep their salaries, bonuses, and perks after all these issues arose. I got the feeling that this sentiment was applicable to all types of executives in the same way.
There was also Kevin (Kev) and his girlfriend Alana. She was from British Columbia and we shared some stories back and forth. Alana reminded me a bit of Robyn from How I Met Your Mother who was from Vancouver, B.C. A really cool girl who could hang out with the boys, throw some darts, and since she was an apparent fan of hockey culture, she was pretty tough to boot.
Kevin was a great guy as well, and in fact it looks like I might be staying with Kevin and Alana later next week when I return from exploring Europe a bit and am winding down ready to go back to Heathrow. Kevin is apparently an archeologist and a professor. A point that got brought up quite a few times in shouting during darts “Hey doc!” or “Hey prof!” were pretty common expressions.
There was also Ritchie who you could tell was the bar’s resident drinker. The kind of bloke who will drink a bit too much, and get a bit too loud. Though, he was very nice to buy me a pint by the time I had gotten to the bar I think Richie was well into it. He was there with a girl who appeared to be quite young. I remember making a remark about the sign hanging above the bar which read “If you appear to be under 21 we will need to ensure you are above 18.” After I pointed out how different that was from the states Ritchie’s bird laughed and smirked, drifting left and right on her barstool obviously quite inebriated.
Then the bell. “Facists!” yells Ritchie. “Pedophile!” yells the barman.
Those not familiar with the bell are probably familiar with last call. One in the same, but in London in happens at 11 PM. Whoa! 11? I had just gotten started as Jim and I had made the pub at about half past 9.
Right, get everyone out. Now it’s a lock in.
That’s when our little group started to have some fun. Kev, Alana, Pete, Pat, Jill, Jim, Ritchie and his underage bird, other drunk guy, and myself were now in it for the long haul. The other drunk guy was a pretty cool dude who’s wife was heavily pregnant. We joked about him exercising his last days before being incarcerated as a father to a life of servitude. At one point I was joking about Americans trying to mimic English accents and said, “Oi bollocks, I’m pissed up, right oh!” Drunk guy didn’t like my expression and started looking at me disapprovingly, joking for me to leave. Moments later we were talking about an older gentleman and I said something about him being an “oxygen thief” and apparently totally redeemed myself.
Our group also included Mark, Pete’s son and Josh who were barhands during the night. “Little Tony” was also around but him and his bird went out for the night so we didn’t see much of them.
Jill had snuck out before last call to pickup a selection of English finger foods. I hadn’t really realized this until about 12:30 AM when she started a table full of goodies. Pate, pork pies, cheese, bread, salt and balsamic vinegar chips, oh my. I freaking love pork pies and they aren’t something that you find very often back in the states. Just as the name suggests it is pork meat wrapped in pastry with a gelatin that gets referred to with several nasty names…shear brilliance, those little pork pastries.
Jim and I kicked off the first round of darts, playing 501. I had no idea my math skills were as terrible as they were. I was having a hell of a time subtracting anything. Even though I was leading, Jim got me in the end and a few more games were played until we got everyone involved in a round of Killer.
That’s when things started to get really fun. Killer is a game where you have a lot of fun going after someone, or having someone go after you. Of course Alana and I had a bit of an alliance because of our North American heritage. Kev kept reminding me of where I’d be staying next week. Jill and Pete were quick to remind me where I was staying tonight. Then there was Jim, who seemed like a logical choice. I went after Jimbo pretty heavily because it seemed to earn me quite a bit of connection with everyone at the bar. In the end, it started coming down to either Alana or Pete. I made a snarky comment about Canada which may have sabotaged my to-be residence in their spare bedroom and tossed a few darts almost knocking Alana out.
Then there was Pete…who finished me off and became the winner. A good laugh, and another round, was shared by all.
We kept drinking and drinking until about 4:00 AM when everything started to get a bit weird. I found myself in the basement with all the barrels getting a quick education on how beer is stored properly in England. A cellar that is kept at a cool temperature houses all the barrels of beer, with the bitter in oak casks to make it even better. A good rule of thumb in England regarding bitter is to ask the landlord what he or she drinks. If they drink their own bitter, then you know it’s a winner.
Jill and I rolling barrels. Don’t worry, these weren’t live. On Tuesday I’ve been asked to help with receiving new barrels…hopefully I’m not still drinking when the barrels come about.
Bitter is a type of beer that needs to be cared for well. The lines need to be clean, the beer needs to be stored well and kept at a good temperature and it has to be somewhat appreciated. The same is true in the states with bars that carry Guinness as a novelty. Go into Claddagh’s Irish Pub in Maple Grove and you’ll get a fresh and tasty pint. Go to a sports bar in Anoka and you’ll get a shit stale Guinness that has a bad taste.
I returned upstairs and seemed to have started a very divisive debate on politics. I worked hard to hold my own as I finished off a couple more pints and argued a bit about English politics. Which, I have absolutely no business doing, by the way.
Jill was quick to point out the differences between the working class labor party and the conservatives. Both parties were well represented and when a joke was made about labor party patrons Jill and Pete would push their fist into the sky and sing the national anthem…or as Pete would say about his singing, butcher the national anthem.
Then Jill looks at me with a stern look in her eye. Asks me to come over to the tables where the cheese and food had been devoured and said she needed to see me in private. I was a little skeptical of this, then she sat me done and held up her arm. “holy shit, she wants to arm wrestle?” I thought to myself…Do I let her win? After all she is giving me a free place to stay. She told me not to hold back and I didn’t, but I also didn’t give her the full brunt. I’m a gentleman after all, I’m not going to break some lady’s damn arm off just because we’re both a little pissed up. This of course started an arm wrestling competition. I was worried that I would have to wrestle Pat. He may be well in his sixties, but I had heard stories about him bouncing around drunkards like bunnies when they got too rowdy.
The last thing I wanted was to lose a battle of arm strength to a man who is nearly seventy.
That didn’t happen, but I ended up beating Jim with no problems, though he gave it a good try. Pete then sauntered up to the table and I knew I was done for. Hellish forearms that man had and I gave it my all, my face bright red like a tomato trying desperately to get all the strength I could out of me. My hand still freaking hurts from the experience, and we did both the left and the right. My hats off to you, Pete…you’re a hell of a competitor!
We all finished our pints and then it was time to show me to my room. There are two suites upstairs that are setup very dormitory in fashion. My room has two twin beds a cabinet and a sink with a small stove and that’s all. Little Tony who is a chef in the pub lives in suite 2 and I’m currently living in suite 1. We share a shower and bathroom that are in separate rooms (which will probably be handy) and that is where the amenities stop.
The last thing Jill said to me before she retired for the evening was, “Someone died here once, right, goodnight.”
It’s the perfect arrangement for me though. I don’t need much and I’m very, very grateful for Jill and Pete to welcome me in and put me up for a few days. I’ve decided that I’ll remain here until Thursday morning then catch the off-peak trains up north to Crewe to meet up with Chris.
I crashed out hard at about 4:30 GMT and woke up at around 13:00. I chatted with Jill for a short moment and then had expected to take a shower and head out. That still hasn’t happened, as I fell back asleep in the middle of this damn blog entry. However, I don’t feel bad because I’ve got lots of days here. I’m going to run out shortly and find some food, rehydrate, and take some nighttime pictures around London if I can. Then I’ll likely return to the pub to drink with Pete, chat with Pat and call it an early evening. By tomorrow I should be well onto GMT and I’ll spend the day out taking pictures and doing touristy things during the weekday. Jim is coming back to The Lyceum tomorrow for a friend’s birthday so I’m sure I’ll need to be well rested for that drinking experience.
Wow, as I wrap up this update I realize that it’s almost 2,800 words long. If you’ve made it this far, good for you…but you’ve only wasted 15 minutes of you precious time and for that I apologize. I’ll look forward to when we next speak. Until then, have a pint mates and kick back.